Peace Now: Gov’t spends NIS 1.6b. more on settlers

Tovah Lazaroff | JPOST.COM

Other report shows a sharp, 38 percent spike in spending on settlements in 2011 after an eight-year decline.

Peace Now on Tuesday charged that the government spends an estimated NIS 1.6 billion more annually on Israelis who live in West Bank settlements than on those who live within the pre-1967 lines.

Its figures are based on budget items culled from 2010, 2011 and 2012 data, explained Hagit Ofran of Peace Now.

It also includes the NIS 50 million that the Finance Ministry has promised to spend to upgrade Ariel University, which was recently awarded that status by the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria.

Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said that the report was inaccurate and misleading.

Peace Now issued the report just one day after Hebrew business daily Calcalist published data on government spending in the settlements, which showed that it had spiked upwards in 2011, after declining sharply from 2003.

Calcalist drew its data from a Central Bureau of Statistics report for the Finance Ministry, which was not made public, but was obtained by the paper.

According to the daily, the government spent NIS 2.1 billion on West Bank settlements in 2003, a sum that dropped by 42 percent in 2004 to NIS 1.2b.

It then remained low, at NIS 1.1b. in 2005, NIS 1b. in 2006, NIS 1.1b. in 2007 and dropping to NIS 0.9b. in 2008, according to the business daily.

It then fell even further to NIS 0.8b. in 2009 and 2010 during the first two years that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was in office, according to the Calcalist.

Government spending in the settlements then spiked up 38% to NIS 1.1b. in 2011, according to the Calcalist.

But Peace Now, which advocates a withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines and whose numbers often differ from that of the Central Bureau of Statistics, said that in a study it conducted showed that the budget numbers were much higher.

Ofran said that the CBS report looked at funding that was specifically earmarked for settlements.

But the Peace Now report also calculated funds for normal services, which were higher than what was provided to Israelis within the pre- 1967 line.

It did not include security funds spent on the settlements.

Peace Now executive director Yariv Oppenheimer said, “by cutting the extra funding for the settlements Israel can immediately save NIS 1.6 billion.

This will improve the economic situation of the country.” According to the report, for example, the local authorities gave West Bank settlements NIS 606,701,000 in 2010, which was 8% of the overall sum of NIS 7.4b. that it provided local authorities across the country.

But the report, noted that settlers make up only 4% of Israel’s population. If the spending had been in proportion, the government would have saved NIS 310,658,400, the report said. On a per person basis the government gave each person in the settlements NIS 4,913 versus NIS 2,254 for services through the local authorities, the report said.

In 2011, according to the report, the Construction and Housing Ministry spent NIS 87.8 million on West Bank settlements.

In addition, it has spent NIS 65m. to construct two alternative housing sites for the Migron outpost, one near the Psagot winery and the other in the Geva Binyamin settlement.

It also plans to spend NIS 7.8m. to relocate five stone apartment buildings from the Ulpana outpost to the adjacent Beit El settlement. Although Peace Now estimated that the final cost of this relocation project could reach NIS 14m., it did not include that higher sum in its overall annual figure.

Peace Now also included quite a number of special spending items on the settlements in its figure.

It charged that the Tourism Ministry has spent at least NIS 785,000 to encourage tourism to Judea and Samaria and under the Heritage Plan has allocated NIS 17m to develop West Bank sites.

The government provides exporters NIS 10.8m. annually to offset the taxes imposed on them by the European Union, which does not include products produced in West Bank settlements in its free trade agreement with Israel.

The government also spends NIS 10m. annually on grounds such as the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, the Samaria Citizens’ Committee, Regavim, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel and Honeinu.

Dayan, said, however, that the report was a “mean manipulation of the data.” He said that it mixed up information, to focus on ways in which spending in the settlement was above average, but ignored all the places in which it was below average.

“I am ready to make a deal with Oppenheimer,” Dayan said.

He was ready, he said, to give up all the extra funding, if he then received compensation for all the ways in which the settlements are under funded.

If this were to happen, he said, he would gain and not lose.

The Peace Now report, he said, is not about economics or statistics.

“It is all about politics,” Dayan said.